Saudi: Sense of Smell Test Recommended for Returning to Work

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An analytical study conducted by the Center of Innovation and Development in Artificial Intelligence (CIADA) at Umm Al-Qura University identified the most common symptoms according to tweets of 270 novel coronavirus COVID-19 cases, via Twitter, and recommended using ‘sense of smell’ test as a mandatory precautionary measure for returning to work, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said Thursday.

The tweets included those of some Saudi and non-Saudi patients infected with the novel coronavirus in the last three months, according to CIADA’s website.

The General Supervisor of CIADA, Dr. Eissa Al-Anazi, said that analyzing the data of patients with coronavirus on Twitter or any other social media platform is very important in gaining a great understanding of the spread of the nature of the virus and in building early warning systems, with the social media platforms enabling millions of people to post their symptoms on a daily basis.

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He added that the real-time analysis of such data provides beneficial information to the authorities responsible for coronavirus management.

Al- Anazi disclosed that the study involved the analysis of 900 people showing symptoms of illness. Of these, 270 had contracted the new coronavirus COVID-19 infection, based on their tweets during the period March 1–May 27, 2020, with 74 percent of them males and 26 percent females.

The study showed that 13 percent of the patients did not show any symptoms, while the percentage of cases that showed symptoms reached 87 percent of the total targeted sample, of whom 46 percent were Saudis.

The top 10 symptoms in the tweets of the patients were led by fever with 59 percent, followed by headaches 43 percent and affliction with loss of sense of smell reaching 39 percent.

The percentage of loss of sense of taste was 31 percent of the total sample, fatigue 29 percent, cough with 26 percent, sore throat with 18 percent, cases of shortness of breath accounted for 14 percent, while 12 percent of the cases had diarrhea, and 10 percent had a runny nose.

The study concluded that 28% of the cases initially experienced a rise in temperature, while loss of sense of smell was the first pathological symptom in 12% of the total sample. Meanwhile, symptoms of loss of sense of smell or taste in those with coronavirus infection increased last April by 300 compared to March.

The study found that many of the Twitter users suffered from loss of smell last April compared to the previous months, which was one month before smell and taste senses were added to the self-assessment of the Mawid application of the Ministry of Health, CIADA said on its website.

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